June is World Elder Abuse Awareness Month

The Growing Problem of Elder Abuse: Part 1


Unless you live under a rock you are probably aware and may take part in the celebration of Pride Month each June.

But did you know that June is World Elder Abuse Awareness Month?  In fact, next Tue., June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

It’s official

 “Nearly 1 in 10 American senior citizens are abused or neglected each year, yet only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse is brought to the attention of authorities, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Community Living. Elder abuse can mean physical and psychological harm, but it also may manifest through financial exploitation and theft.

To raise awareness of this threat, the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse introduced the first World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 13 years ago.

A Few Simple Facts:

  •  Elderly women are abused more than men.
  • The older the person the more likely they are to be abused.
  • Many caretakers lack the training to detect abuse.
  • The elderly are reluctant to report the abuse.
  • Ninety percent of the abusers are family members.
  • According to research from the Adult Protective Services (APS) agencies elderly abuse is on the rise.
  • Elderly abuse is likely to go unreported for more than a year.

Protective Services in the State of Washington describes elder abuse of vulnerable adults as follows:

  • 60 years of age or older who has the functional, mental, or physical inability to care for himself or herself; or
  • Found incapacitated under Revised Code of Washington section 11.88; or
  • Who has a developmental disability as defined under RCW 71A.10.020; or
  • Admitted to any facility; or
  • Receiving services from home health, hospice, or home care agencies licensed or required to be licensed under RCW 70.127; or
  • Receiving services from an individual provider; or
  • Who self-directs his or her own care and receives services from a personal aide under chapter RCW 74.39.

The National Center for Elder Abuse:

The NCEA provides the latest information regarding research, training, best practices, news and resources on elder abuse, neglect and exploitation to professionals and the public. First established by the U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA) in 1988 as a national elder abuse resource center, the NCEA was granted a permanent home at AoA in the 1992 amendments made to Title II of the Older Americans Act.

The NCEA is one of 27 Administration on Aging-funded Resource Centers. Research shows that as many as two million elders are abused in the United States.

What exactly constitutes elder abuse?

Neglect and Self-Neglect:

  • Lack of food and water
  • Dirty clothing and changes in personal hygiene
  • Unusually messy home
  • Lack of Medication
  • Financial Exploitation:
  • Basic needs not met
  • Bills not paid
  • Unexplained financial changes
  • Unusual purchases

Physical Abuse:

  • Bruises, black eyes, and welts
  • Broken bones, cuts, and sprains
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Caregiver refusal to leave adult alone

Mental Abuse:

  • Threatening significant harm
  • Derogatory names, insults, profanity, and ridicule
  • Harassment and humiliation

Sexual Abuse:

  • Unusual bruising on thighs and chest
  • Unexplained STDs
  • Withdrawn from social interactions and panic attacks
  • Unexplained behavior changes

Financial Fraud:

  • Romance
  • Lottery
  • Sweepstakes
  • Telephone and internet scams.

The numbers are overwhelming, yet this is not a common topic of conversation, even among the senior population.

This column is the first of a series during the month of June to introduce the young and old to this growing problem. You now have the basics. Next week we will take a closer look.

Kathleen Anderson writes this column each week from her home in Olympia.  Contact her at or post your comment below. 


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment